At an early-stage company, what is one skill or personality trait you look for in a new hire?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC has also launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Folks at early-stage companies need to be able to handle change, sometimes on a daily basis. They also need to be able to perform and complete jobs and responsibilities that might be outside of their skill set. Hand in hand with that skill is being open-minded, for the same reasons.
2. Intellectual Curiosity
The single trait that we look for is intellectual curiosity. This means the person finds a genuine interest in everything they do and has a natural desire to invest time and energy into learning. They ask why every time they find a new concept. As author Daniel Pink explains in “Drive,” this intrinsic motivation brings a new level of quality to their work and they naturally collaborate with their teammates.
I’ve found that tenacious employees are the ones who tend to manage their time effectively and actively look for ways to improve the company. When a problem or obstacle is identified, they work quickly to tackle it. In the startup environment where timing is key, it’s these types of people who can help accelerate a growing company.
4. Work Ethic
When starting a company, it is absolute chaos and talent becomes secondary. So the number one thing that a new hire should have is a strong work ethic followed by a belief in the bigger picture and direction of the company.
5. The Ability to Handle Change
There are many moving parts and constant changes at an early-stage company, so it’s important to uncover how a candidate handles change. We ask candidates to tell us about a change that impacted their life, how they responded and the outcome. We’re looking for answers that show the ability to seek clarity and understanding about the decision and ultimate buy-in to get on the bus.
The situation in which a jack-of-all-trades type is most likely to be useful is at the very beginning of a startup or early-stage organization. It’s fairly common for team members in this environment to wear many different hats and perform duties outside of their original job descriptions, so a team member with high versatility can be very valuable.
The one personality trait I look for is passion. It is hard to fake passion and without it, the road ahead is nearly impossible. As a small company you don’t have time to train employees repeatedly, so find someone who really believes in what you are making and who will hang around for the good times and the bad.
Early-stage companies are hectic; there are hundreds of jobs to be done but only a handful of people to do them. None of the executives have time layout solutions for employees. Instead, early-stage executives need to know they can explain the problem to their teams and then trust them to come up with the right solution and execute on it. Always look for initiative first in a new hire.
I’m not looking for someone to come in, do eight hours of work and then clock out for the day. With a startup, employees need to be present, prepared to take on different responsibilities and put out fires as they come. Even if an employee does not meet all of the job requirements, if they have the passion and dedication to get work done, they will be invaluable and can grow with the company.
The only certain thing about early-stage companies is uncertainty. To leave a stable career to grind through the daily ups and downs of a startup and latch on to someone else’s vision takes courage. Does this person have the courage to jump feet first into our company? Do they have the disposition to hang on for the ride? If so, that’s who I want on my team.
11. A Founder’s Mindset
The best early-stage startup employees are people who take initiative, love to learn and are constantly seeking challenges. A person who can become a founder of their own startup is the perfect early hire because they take the initiative to figure things out, seek to fill leadership roles and believe in your vision before it’s a reality. They are the future leaders of your company. Be selective.
12. Diligence and Excellence
When my company was in its early stages, the quality I valued most in new hires was the ability to do all things (no matter how big or small) with diligence and excellence. As a seed-stage company, it is crucial to execute well. Hires who see every project through to fruition with excellence separate the startups that fail from the startups that scale.
As an early-stage company, the single personality trait that we look for is humility. The ability to quietly maintain confidence and take pride in achievements, without the baggage of arrogance or loudly overselling, is one of the identifiers of whether someone is a good fit for the company.
As an early-stage company, we look for resilient personalities. Our experience has taught us that taking an idea (that almost everyone thinks is silly in the beginning) and turning it into a reality is always hard. There are difficult challenges daily and you need to be able to bounce back quickly and continue to move forward in order to be successful.
15. Strong Communication Skills
One of the most important personality traits we look for is good communication skills. We want our employees to work together and in order to do this efficiently, they must be able to communicate amongst each other. To find this skill, we’ll ask a lot of open-ended questions during the interview process.